To SEO or Not to SEO

SEO has become somewhat of a buzz word in the web industry. People want more SEO, better SEO, optimized SEO. SEO means Search Engine Optimization, by the way, so if you’re asking for optimized SEO that proves you really don’t know what you’re asking for. The difficulty with SEO is finding the balance between SEO for the sake of the search engines and SEO that fits with the useability of a website.

Too often I see sites that have seemingly random blocks of text that feel disjointed from the content of the site. They do not blend or flow and often they contain unnecessary links. This is all for SEO. They are writing to fool the search engines into thinking it is worthwhile content. For the user, though, it is garbage. It is often bland and doesn’t make sense. What’s worse is when someone puts the exact same bland, disjointed text on every page.

So how do you make effective SEO for both search engines and the user?

First you need to understand what works with the ugly SEO. It’s the magic combination of long and short tail keywords blended into sentences. It’s also the structure of the code to have proper h1, h2, h3 and p tags.

Now that you understand what works in the ugly SEO, how do you get it into your site?

The simple answer is to re-write your content or add content where you don’t have any. The long answer is that you should look at you Google Analytics (or other analytics software) to identify the keywords that people are using to get to your site and to figure out what you think are keywords that are not driving traffic. If you sell and install ceiling fans, but more people are coming to your site for other electrician services, you need to modify your text to sprinkle in more about your ceiling fan services and less about electrical services. You also need to be aware of what page you are adding text to. If you are on the contact page, it should not revolve around parts & repair. If it is a product page, it should be about the product first and foremost and offer an install service as an addendum.

Once you have engaging, keyword oriented content that matches what a page is about, you need to figure out if you can add relevant internal links. For example, if you’re on a brand page showcasing all of your fans from Black & Decker (do they even sell fans?), sprinkle in links to sub categories (white, black, wood…) or specific product pages. Also, add in links to contact and installation services, but remember it should not be the primary content.

When it comes to the hierarchy on the code side, this might require a little more technical skill. This is also an area where the impact is highly varied. The best way to explain hierarchy is to think of it like a newspaper. What’s at the top is usually your headline. It does not need to be huge, but it is usually larger and bolder. Typically this is also the page title and it goes in something called an h1 tag. The sub headlines go into h2 and h3 tags. While you can extend the h tags out as far as you want, anything more than h3/h4 is highly atypical. Usually after h3, start using paragraph (p) tags to identify the main content of your body.

SEO does not have to be difficult and it does not require a special media degree, however, finding a good balance can be tricky. If you feel so inclined and have the money to do so, hire someone, but make sure that your objectives are clear and that you understand what they will be doing to your site to make it SEO friendly.